The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
2 Points

Nothing in science is ever proven

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/26/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,460 times Debate No: 35009
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




The dominant philosophy of scientific knowledge is that nothing is ever proven, and claims can only be considered false vs. less false. I will present the con argument, my opponent will present pro.

I will be adding new arguments as I continue, but I will open with this one:

C1. All claims must apply to themselves
If the claim that nothing is ever proven is true, then it, by its own logic, must be regarded as inconclusive. Essentially, if one can not know anything, they can not know that they can not know, and thus can not regard this as a guiding principle of knowledge.


Hi. I'm Justin. I'll be representing the negative side of this argument. (Or Con)
I will be arguing that nothing in science is ever proven.

My opponent's position, while quite fascinating and actually certainly thought-provoking, has not done something. It hasn't proven my position wrong.

Yes. Scientific theory applies even to itself. NOTHING is ever scientifically proven. Your and my existence as of right now isn't scientifically proven, and can't be. Therefore, the fact that it can't be proven, ALSO can't be proven.

My first argument is this:

1. Scientific theory is true until it isn't.
It's just what it is. Theory. Until something IS proven by science, which the theory states is impossible, then we must assume it is true. Just like other theories out there, we may assume they're true due to supporting evidence (in this case, the fact that scientific theory has never been proven false), but it in no way guarantees it is true. However, it is the most logical conclusion until it is proven otherwise, due to past results.

Which brings me to argument two.
2. Scientific theory still stands.
As a theory, it hasn't been proven false yet. Therefore, we may still assume it to be true. So long as the theory stands, and it's own application has helped support it to this day, then my position will stand.

Nothing in science is ever proven.

For these reasons I strongly urge an affirmative ballot at the end of this round. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you to JustinAMoffatt for accepting the debate.

C1: What I have done is demonstrated that according to its own logic, the contention cannot be considered true. Thus, I have proven that it should be considered false. As for my existence, I can prove it. My evidence is that I perceive reality, therefore I am conscious, therefore I exist. As for proving your existence, my evidence is that you have communicated information to me, proving that you exist. Even if you were a computer program (which would be irrelevant to consider under current circumstances, as there is no evidence of this), you would still exist, albeit not as a human being.

C2: If theories can only be proven false, but not true, then this means that one can be certain of a falsehood. My opponent may be tempted to say that certainty for truths is the only thing that can not be achieved. But what about the truth that something is false? We are certain of the falsehood, and thus are certain about the truth about the false hood, and are certain about a truth.

P1: You believe that a proposition should be considered true until proven false. By this logic, we must consider every possibility to be true at the same time, even those that contradict each other. Since contradictions can not exist in reality, this thought process is necessarily wrong. As for a view of the practical consequences, let us apply your view to the judicial system. You would have everyone, from the moment of their birth, be considered guilty until proven innocent. In a judicial system, this is injustice. In science, it is pseudoscience.

P2: Scientific theory is never going to be 'proven false'. What it will do is change as new knowledge is accumulated. But it will still be based on the foundation that is past and present knowledge. If a theory is not perfect, that does not make it totally incorrect, but rather incomplete. An example would be the atomic model, which in its transition from Dalton, Rutherford, Bohr, and Schrodinger's models changed drastically, but each correction worked not to destroy its predecessor, but rather to build on it.


No problem. I'm a sucker for a good "brain-bender" kind of debate. Thanks for posting it.
(I do apologize, however, I'm not quite familiar with the meaning of C's and P's. I'm assuming C is "constructive"?)

RC1 (or "in response to C1") It appears my opponent and I have had a miscommunication of sorts. The resolution says that nothing in science is ever proven. I, as affirmative, am affirming the resolution. So, I am affirming that nothing is proven in science. However, there are other ways of proving things, yes. These methods, however, are not scientific. Take history, for example. There's no amount of tests you may scientifically run that will prove that Abraham Lincoln existed. However, we can use written record, memorabilia, and testimony to all prove historically that Lincoln did indeed exist. But science, forever the skeptic, will always point out that it COULD, just maybe, all be a fabrication.

This leads me into my second response.

RC2. This is how things can only be DISPROVED in science. I can hypothesize that "bears can only produce baby bears". And so long as that's true, I can believe that's fact. But as soon as that bear gives birth to a lizard, science has proven my statement to be false. There is still such a thing as truth in science, it just can't be proven.

RP1. This is why we must prove theories false. Yes, as my opponent sated, certain theories contradict each other. Naturally, they can not both exist. But until one is disproved, we don't know which. Science may not be able to prove which one is right, but it can prove all the other ones we've thought of so far are wrong! It's a real "stick in the mud" like that. As for our judicial system, you are forgetting that, in order to "prove", we must remove all reasonable doubt. One doubt is that there could be any other suspects. All other reasonable suspects must present evidence stating that they were, without a doubt, not involved with the crime. If they all provide evidence that proves innocence (or in this case, falsehood) then they are dismissed. The thing is, while trials can't keep going on forever until we've proven who the culprit is beyond ANY doubt (not just reasonable) science isn't confined by the parameters of swift justice and society. At any time, a new theory (or suspect) could take the place of the old. Or, as often happens, multiple "supsects" will be investigated at once. So in one way, the comparison to the judicial system my opponent brought up shows us that scientific theory is the same as being "innocent until proven guilty". However, we can not fully expect it to line up because science can't be confined.

RP2. Scientific theory will be proven false when another theory is proven true. It will not "change" as my opponent puts it. New theories will be based off it. They may adopt the same name. They may resemble it in all but the most minute detail. But the Scientific theory, if proven false, will be false forever. Just because my theory that "bears only give birth to bears" didn't work out, doesn't mean that it can become true again if I adapt it to allow the use of "bears can only give birth to bears and lizards". No. The theory which stated that bears could ONLY give birth to bears was false. And will forever be branded false from the day it was proven so, scientifically. And it is because it can only be proven false that we can assume it is true. We can't prove it. But we can assume it.

I remind everyone, nothing in science is ever proven. Science will forever be a skeptic.

Thank you. It is for all these reasons I'd urge an affirmative ballot.
Debate Round No. 2


C refers to Con, P refers to Pro. Arguments that I put forward will be listed as C's, yours will be listed as P's.

C1: The hypothesis that Abraham Lincoln was fake is arbitrary, and thus unscientific. I think at this point I will do something that I should have done earlier in this debate, and that is to provide a definition of science (1):

a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
any of the branches of natural or physical science.
systematized knowledge in general.
knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.

For our purposes, I propose that we use definition 2, that science is 'systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation'. In history books, reading about Abraham Lincoln, all knowledge about him was achieved by observing him. This is a very basic form of science, that for all practical purposes is so obvious as to not require use of the scientific method. While you may say that reading in history books is not scientific, the same must apply to reading a science textbook, and reading about scientific knowledge.

C2: Our knowledge of reproduction goes far beyond mere observation of bears producing baby bears. We understand the cellular process (though not every single aspect, which is why we continue to study it). Even if a bear made a lizard, this would not destroy biological theory. It would require changes, and an understanding of why an exception has happened. Perhaps when bears get struck by radioactive lightning, their DNA rearranges to make them produce lizards (yes, i know this is an arbitrary hypothesis, but so is the idea I'm refuting here)
However, you have missed the point here. What I meant was that we can be certain of the truth, because we can be certain of the truth that something is false. Taken to its logical conclusion, your idea must mean that nothing can be proven false either. And this, of course, destroys your whole argument.

P1: But what about the ideas that have not been considered yet? According to your logic, you have have to say that these should also be considered true. Ideas should begin by being considered false, and then proven true. If an idea is proven true, but has exceptions, these exceptions should also begin by being considered false, and then proven true. The best scientific model of the day should be one that is as accurate as possible according to current knowledge. A model that has contradictions is obviously not as accurate as possible. As for the judicial system, my opponent is correct in realizing that it should ignore arbitrary doubt. But the reason is not about time, its about truth, and arbitrary hypotheses should not be contemplated at any point. As for suspects proving their innocence, they only have to do this when there is reason to suspect their guilt. A scientific example would be the shape of the Earth. At first glance, the idea of a flat Earth seems self evident, but as scientific evidence to the contrary increases, the Earth is proven to be round. The idea of a flat Earth is a much more rational idea (at first glance, with no real inquiry) than the idea that my brain is a piggy bank, because it is not arbitrary.

P2: I'm not saying that that individual theory would change, I'm saying that scientific theory as a whole would change. For an analogy, somebody new moving into a village does not destroy what the village is and replaces it with something completely different. Somebody moving into a village modifies the village a little bit, and certain other factors will change as a result. But the village is still the same village.
I would also like to add a quote by my opponent: "Scientific theory will be proven false when another theory is proven true"
Sounds like a concession to me.



Thank you very much for enlightening me, and again for your definition.

I accept the Con's definition of the word Science.

I will now refute my opponent's arguments.

C1. My opponent is correct in one sense, but wrong in another. I talked earlier about historical fact being different than scientific fact. That still stands. What one must understand is that the Pro doesn't claim that there's no such thing as truth or fact in this world. I just stand by the fact that nothing in science is ever proven. In order for me to have proven incorrect, there will have to be evidence brought forth showing that SCIENCE, and not history, has proven a fact. No matter how many scientific tests or studies you perform systematically, you will not prove that Abraham Lincoln did exist. There is no way. You may find millions of written records of Lincoln through research, and have them coincide with other historical events, which coincide with present reality. But that would make it a historical fact, which is still a fact. It's just not a scientific fact, because there is no such thing.

C2. My opponent says, "Even if a bear made a lizard, this would not destroy biological theory. It would require changes..." However, theory can not be changed. If I were to hypothesize that "bears could only give birth to baby bears", then there is no room for exception in my theory. The second that baby lizard appears from that poor, and probably very confused, mother bear, my theory is proven false. My opponent could then hypothesize that "Bears can give birth to baby bears and lizards, provided they are struck by radioactive lightning". His theory would be correct. He may have built his theory off of mine. He may even give me credit for starting the research. But my theory deserves it's "false" stamp on the wrist for all eternity.

C3. (I'm moving the second half of C2 here, for clarity's sake) My opponent has claimed that as soon as I have proven a statement to be false scientifically, that I have then proven it's falsehood true and therefore have destroyed my own theory.
Oh boy. Here we go. Better have some Tylenol or Ibuprofen handy, folks.
Since I view this as the most crucial and threatening argument to my case so far, I will try and refute it here effectively and thoroughly.
As I stated before, there is such a thing as "true" and "false". They can not exist together in the same reality. An answer, a statement, a hypothesis, will always be true or false. These are mutually exclusive. If I say "The Yankees are from New York.", this is true. If I say "The Yankees are from Boston.", this is a false statement. Simple enough? Right?
Wrong. My opponent has pointed out something. If a statement is proven false, by it's very nature you have proven it true that it's false. So even if we can only disprove hypotheses in science, he claims that we are proving them truly false. But nonetheless, I have a response I believe is true, sensible, and adequate.
Remember earlier, when I informed my opponent that things may be proven OUTSIDE of science? This is a great example of such a concept. To continue earlier's analogy, I hypothesize that "baby bears only give birth to baby bears". The lizard is born. My hypothesis is false, scientifically. The fact that it is false is true, not scientifically. Why? The answer is this, because we have not used scientific method to prove it is truly false. (Bear with me. I'm not making this stuff up) Just like earlier, with Abraham Lincoln, we could not run tests on our present reality to prove his existence, because science simply can't prove anything. The most it will do is admit a tendency.
So we see here that my argument, and the resolution, still remains. Nothing can be proven in science. Even if something is disproved through science, the fact it is scientifically false is true, just not true scientifically.

Now that we have that lovely brain teaser out of the way...

P1: Yes. All theories should be ABLE to be assumed true, until proven false. It doesn't me we should assume they're all true. But if you test a theory and cannot disprove it, until you do, it may be considered true. However, it would be illogical to assume multiple hypotheses true. So if there are two contradicting hypotheses, we know one is false, but you can not claim yours is any more legitimate scientifically than mine until you prove mine false. Do we know which hypotheses are more likely than others? Yes. So we test those that we think are most likely. We ignore those that aren't, just like you don't investigate the disabled Canadian grandma for a serial killing in Argentina. The idea that the Earth was flat is a great example supporting scientific theory in my opinion. Until the earth was proven round, both the assumption that the earth was flat, and that the earth was round, were equally legitimate, yet mutually exclusive obviously! This is why, whilst the flat theory was proven false scientifically, the round theory still remains true because it has not been proven false.

P2. As I said earlier, a statement isn't changed, and neither is a theory. You may change your ideas. But the theory, or the statement, that said something incorrect, will forever be branded false. Imagine your village is on an island frequently plagued by earthquakes, (representing testing done scientifically) if your village falters, even in only one area, it will crumble. You may rebuild where that village was. You may follow most of the same structure and layout of the previous village. However, your new village will not be the same village.

I look forward to my opponent's response, and continuing this truly engaging debate.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3


C1: The idea of a conflict between historic truth and scientific truth is non-existent. Both of the braches of knowledge are integrated as part of truth as a whole, and there cannot be disagreement between the two. A scientist must still accept the existence of Lincoln, and a historian must still accept the existence of gravity.

C2: Here you say that my theory would be correct. I don't know what you are trying to say here. You acknowledge the truth of a theory, contradicting your premise.

C3: As I said, scientific truth does not contradict other kinds of truth. Scientific truth, as going by the definition we are using, refers to truth gained through observation and experimentation. If we are to accept that there is no scientific truth, only other things like historical truth, then why do we continue to use the scientific method? Wouldn't it be better to use one of the other types of gathering information that they use in history? But of course, this is what is used in history, at a lower conceptual level. Events are observed and recorded. They are verified through reference to other facts, and techniques such as carbon dating for very old events. The line is not as clear as one may think. Dinosaurs and the Roman Empire are both in the past, but dinosaurs are a part of scientific study while the Roman Empire is part of historical study. So where is the line between the two? Maybe there is even some overlap during the ice age? Just because the concept of 'truth' can be divided into categories does not mean that the categories are totally independent from each other.

P1: By your logic, if we ignore the disabled Canadian grandma, the idea that she is the killer would have as much legitimacy as the idea that a twenty year old Argentinian ex-convict is the killer. Since her being the suspect is just as legitimate, we would not be able to convict the real killer because the Canadian grandma was not investigated. As for the earth being round, until the evidence for it began to appear, it would not be a legitimate claim to make. It would be considered false. Considering two mutually exclusive theories as both true is a fallacy, but considering them both false is not.

P2: If the scientific testing is to be represented by earthquakes, then where did the village come from. All we have is destruction, and in this village nothing represents the building of buildings. Scientific testing should be represented by ground surveying, and scientific development should be represented by construction. If there is one earthquake (identification of error in a scientific theory) the whole village is not destroyed. Only parts are. The rebuilding (modification of theory) will change the village, but it will still be the same village.
For a more real metaphor, the rebuilt World Trade Center after 9/11 is not the same World Trade Center. But New York is still New York.


If you request in the next round, in the interest of balance, I will skip the final round. All I will post is the following: "No arguments will be posted this round, as requested". (And some formalities, if you allow me) If not, I will take that final opportunity to refute your final arguments. But first, on to your current ones...

C1. The shift of focus in our debate has transferred, it would appear! I must now show the difference between scientific fact and fact in itself.
Science, as we have defined it, is "systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.". This is, in the real world, called "Scientific Method". I will provide a link detailing this process in full.

Basically, there are four stages.

The Question. "What do bears produce?"

The Hypothesis. "Bears produce bears."

The Testing. (In our analogy, revealing that bears also give birth to lizards).

The Analysis. Our Hypothesis was wrong. We make a new one.

You see, by this method, we can never prove something to be true. Why? Because even if we only ever observed baby bears being produced, we can not guarantee (with science) that they will only ever produce baby bears. So, to try and apply it to Abraham Lincoln.

Does/did Abraham Lincoln exist?

In order to use scientific method, we must transport ourselves back to the time in which he was living (science can only apply to current reality, after all). We'll go back to Novermber 19th, 1863. Now, we must test our theory. We know that existing things can often be poked with a stick.

Our hypothesis. "Abraham Lincoln can be poked by a stick."

So, before he can get his "four score" out of his mouth, we've jabbed him in the rib-cage with a branch. This is our test. We do it several times, just to be sure.

Now we analyze. Our hypothesis held true DURING TESTING. However, science couldn't guarantee we would always be able to poke him with a stick. Nothing could. There is absolutely no guarantee, however many times you do something and get the same result, that it will hold true the next time you do it.

This is where we are left. History, having other people write in the books about good 'ole Honest Abe, is what gives us proof of Lincoln's existence. However, scientifically, it can't be proven. You can not provide overwhelming evidence, and claim it as a scientific fact. There is no guarantee that someday, gravity will not apply to a certain object. Is it likely? No. Do we have any reason to believe that gravity won't apply to a single object? No. But can we prove it won't happen? Nope.

C2. I'm sorry for any confusion. I was saying that your theory 1) could be assumed correct. And 2) could, in fact, be correct. However, as I stated earlier, even if it's correct, it doesn't mean you've scientifically proven it is.

C3. And as I've stated, scientific truth doesn't exist. Truth does. Scientific method, science, and false hypotheses do. But like I said earlier, you can't provide an example of something that can be proven true. Scientifically, that is. In a sense, you're right. Our predecessors observed Lincoln, the Roman Empire, and Dinosaurs, repeatedly. They, in a way, were observing things, and writing down what they studied. However, what's to say that 1) They weren't lying. 2) Roman civilization never existed, only relics of it do. 3) Roman civilization was an optical illusion, and so were all events surrounding it. These are 3 preposterous theories, wouldn't you agree? But that's science for you. There will ALWAYS be another theory, and until all other theories are proven false (which is impossible, seeing as how some can not be tested) we will never prove something scientifically. It's likely, extremely so, to the point beyond any reasonable, or even most unreasonable, doubt, that the Roman Civilization existed. But you can't prove it scientifically. That is the resolution. That is the debate. Can you show me an example of something being PROVEN through science? That's the question.

P1. She does have just as much legitimacy to be a criminal at the start. Then we take into consideration her distance form the crime scene, and her legitimacy falters. We consider that she's disabled, and it becomes extremely unlikely. Finally, we find evidence that she was sleeping in her nice warm Canadian bed when the crime occurred. She is not a suspect. But why would we even investigate her in the first place? We wouldn't. She is our "Roman Civilization was an optical illusion" theory. No one believes her. She may even be disproved already. But she represents the oddball theories that will forever be there. In court, we can provide overwhelming evidence to a being's guilt. However, we can never prove they murdered someone scientifically. They may have plunged the knife into the victim's heart ON CAMERA! But who's to say the laws of image capturing apply to this camera? Who's to say that this particular being wasn't impervious to knife wounds? Well, we have very likely and tested scientific law to say that these are improbable and not even doubt-worthy. However, you can't prove, scientifically, that they're impossible. It's a doozy of a subject, but really quite captivating if you think about it. What if we're all wrong about a certain scientific law or theory? What if there IS that one object that defies gravity naturally?

P2. This analogy is rather pointless, in my opinion. My only point is that once a statement is false, it is false. Even if theories could be changed, thus preventing anything from being proven "false", it wouldn't mean that science could prove something "true". Therefore, I will concede this argument in the interest of time and space for my opponent's final arguments.

I will save my formalities for the end, if you'll be gracious enough to allow them. Fantastic debating you this round, as always.
Debate Round No. 4


This final round will be for concluding comments and any short final arguments that you or I wish to include

I would like to begin by addressing a common theme in my opponent's reasoning: the idea that there is always another possibility. The thing is, for a something to even be considered possible, it needs to have a reasonable claim on truth. It must not be arbitrary. I would like to reference the my opponent himself provided. In the link, the scientific method is defined as "the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world." This directly contradicts my opponent's application of the method. He prefers to consider multiple hypotheses that are unproven as all true, rather than all false, leading to contradictions (defeating the consistency). He prefers to throw out random hypotheses with no regard for evidence (defeating the non-arbitrary). These two combined create a system filled with contradictions that can never hope to be proven useful (defeating the reliable).

My opponent has asked me to identify something that science has proven. I will provide several things: gravity, evolution, cells, atoms, chemical reactions, the Milky Way galaxy, etc... Scientific application has also given us the Industrial Revolution, electricity, the Moon landing, etc...

Concluding, I deserve this victory. I was able to demonstrate fallacies in the contention, and show that science can and does give us truth about reality.


First, I will quickly and concisely refute my opponent's final arguments, as he has graciously allowed me to do.

Although he dropped most of my arguments from the last speech I gave, my opponent stated that, in order for something to be considered possible, it must have a reasonable claim to the truth. However, how are we to determine what is reasonable and what is not? When we are looking for the source to something, we must consider ALL possibilities. Now, scientists are quite sure in laws such as gravity. (Hence the term "law") Thus, we are not searching for another answer to the question "Why does everything hit the floor?". But, we can never keep our minds closed to the possibility of another theory being correct. Gravity, like I mentioned, could apply to every object except one. "Truth" in science, is absolute. We would leave no room for doubt. However, with all the other theories (and clarifications of theories) out there, we simply can not brand a hypothesis as true through science. I throw out random, and admittedly unrealistic, hypotheses, not because I believe in them. I am just showing how science can not prove any given hypothesis, even if it is true.

Examples such as gravity, evolution, cells, atoms... etc. are still theories. Are we sure they exist beyond any reasonable doubt? Yes. Or at least some form of them. However, you can not use repeated testing to prove that it applies to all things, will always apply to all things, and has always applied to all things. That is why it is said that "Science can't prove anything" in the first place. We have to assume it's true because no one can prove it false. However, I can not guarantee that one day we will not prove something true, which is what keeps me from proving the theory true in the first place. Scientific application operates under the assumption that scientific theories and laws are true, not the guarantee.

I encourage you to remember that any theory could be proven wrong one day. Any theory, including scientific theory itself, which is why we assume it true, but can't prove it to be thus.

For these reasons, I urge a Pro ballot. Thank you for your time.

I want to thank my opponent for such a great debate. This has been a fun and brain-flexing journey for me, and I assume the same for most who read this. It was fun, and I am now better learned and more confident in my stance on scientific theory. I hope to debate you in the future, JorgeLucas.
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by JustinAMoffatt 4 years ago
That's the gist of what I TRIED to say. If I didn't communicate that clearly, I apologize. :)
Posted by Aniline 4 years ago
I don't think that claims can be considered false versus less false.

It is entirely possible for a scientific theory to be correct. It would simply be impossible to prove that it is actually correct.
Posted by Noumena 4 years ago
If you bring it down to three rounds I can take this.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by GOP 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:02 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro used an .edu website. I think that source is more reliable.